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8th August 2017, Moscow

New Irkut MC-21 aims to outperform Airbus and Boeing

Eugene Gerden reports

The aircraft manufacturing industry will be the major consumer of composites in Russia in the next few years, according to recent statements of an official spokesman of Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade.

Increased consumption will be mainly due to the planned series production of the Irkut MC-21, a Russian single-aisle twinjet airliner, which was developed by the Yakovlev Design Bureau and is being produced by Irkut Corporation.

Irkut MC-21. © Denis Fedorko (http://russianplanes.net/id210231)

Irkut asserts that the operation of the new Russian aircraft will yield cost savings in the range of 12-15%, compared to those associated with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 models, in part as a result of its extensive use of composites.

AeroComposite

The development and creation of the composite wing for the aircraft was carried out by AeroComposite, a Russian producer of composites, which was established in 2008 on the initiative of the Russian aviation monopoly United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and currently remains one of Russia’s leading enterprises in the field.

The production of composites is carried out at AeroComposite plants in Kazan and Ulyanovsk.

The Ulyanovsk plant was specially built for participation in MC-21 programme and other prospective programmes of the UAC, which involve the use of composite materials in the building of Russian aircraft and helicopters.

Inside AeroComposite plant in Ulyanovsk.

The enterprise focuses on the production of basic power elements of the aircraft, which are made from infused carbon composites, including upper and lower centre panels, front and rear side members, as well as the integral panels of the detachable wing parts.

Special large-scale thermal infusion units with numerical programme control allow composite parts in lengths of up to 20 metres and width of four metres to be produced.

Thermal infusion

The technological cycle involves the creation of preform from dry carbon strips and their impregnation with a polymeric binder, with curing at elevated temperatures in the thermal infusion units. This is a fundamental difference compared to the technologies of competitors using prepregs, according to a spokesman of AeroComposite.

MC-21 on the assembly line at Irkut. © Mil.ru (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46662758)

The new technology was designed by AeroComposite in cooperation with the Russian National Institute of Aviation Technologies, as well as such companies as Diamond, FACC AG, Cytec, Hexcel and others.

After reaching its designed capacity, AeroComposit-Ulyanovsk will produce up to 80-100 sets of composite-based wings per year.

Improved wingspan

The MC-21 will be the world’s first aircraft, with a capacity of more than 130 passengers that will have composite-based wings. In general, according to Irkut, the share of composites in the design of the MC-21 is estimated at 40%.

Part of aircraft wing, made of composites from AeroComposite plant in Ulaynovsk.

Irkut reports that the use of carbon composites has allowed the wingspan of the aircraft to be increased and its aerodynamic quality during cruising flight improved. Composites are also used in the construction of a tail of the new aircraft.

“The Irkut MC-2 will save up to 6-8% of fuel compared to the aircraft of Western producers,” says Sergey Loktionov, an official representative of the United Aircraft Corporation. “The production of Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 models also involves the use of composite materials, but on the basis of other technologies and nobody in the world has used similar technologies in the design of such large units as the MC-2’s aircraft wings.”

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